Exhibition Review: NEXT at the Corcoran

The Corcoran Gallery of Art is a unique institution in the primarily Smithsonian-dominated museum landscape of Washington DC. There are a number of factors that differentiate it from the government museums – it is one of the oldest art museums in the US dedicated to American art, and has an extensive collection of classical and contemporary art.  Perhaps most importantly, however, the Corcoran is also a place where art, and artists, are born.

NEXT exhibition exterior graphics and window installations

Since the late 19th century the Corcoran has also been educating artists at its connected museum school. It’s the only art scool in Washington, DC, and is one of the few schools that also gives its graduating class the chance to exhibit their work at one of the leading art museums in the US.

The exhibition theme used neon strings tied around the entire exhibition
to form the show’s signage and identity.

The Corcoran recently updated its exhibition plan a couple of years ago, giving more importance to the work of contemporary, living artists, as well as the emerging artists that are a product of its school. NEXT is the student show that allows the graduating class to display their work in the same space that often sees the works of iconic artists such as Andy Warhol, Ellsworth Kelly, and Ann Truitt. This year was the second installation of NEXT.

This year for the first time, the graduating graduate students also got a chance to showcase some of their work – using a touch screen interactive gallery that visitors could see in the museum rotunda. It fit the format of the graduate students’ work, which is mostly digital, but some of the works could have had their own display as well.

The actual works on display were mostly the undergraduate class’ work, which included quite a few interesting pieces in different mediums, such as performance, a combination of digital media and three dimensional modeling, as well as sand art.

Juliann Holloway, “Dont let go of 333 and hold on to 444”

Noha Kasshogi, “The evolution of Kong”

Another unique thing about the exhibition this year was the alumni juried show, called Crossing the Line. It was a nice touch to the exhibition, showing the dynamism and growth of the students after leaving the school. In the context of the exhibition, it showed the breadth and depth, and also the maturity of the artists in relation to the experimental and slightly raw student works.

I think it was rather smart on the part of the Corcoran to move in this direction of showing student works in the museum. As a major art institution, it is probably one of the most significant gestures it could give to the students. For any artist, a museum exhibition is a significant credential, and it means even more just as you graduate.

Exhibitions can be a significant medium for conveying the role of arts and cutlure in contemporary society. In the case of NEXT, it also gives a voice to some of the future generation of artists that will define how we perceive the world. Congratulations to the new artists of 2012!

All images by Renee Alfonso

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